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Acid Etching

A reliable source for Metal Etching information and leading Metal Etching Companies

This process involves very little mechanical work, for it is an almost entirely chemical procedure. Almost every type of metal can be chemically etched, including most types of steel, titanium, brass, nickel, copper and so forth. Read More…

Acid Etching Acid etching, otherwise known as chemical milling or chemical etching, is a chemical process used by many industrial metal parts manufacturers to etch, cut or engrave very delicate or precise lines into metal.
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Leading Manufacturers

Maple Grove, MN  |  763-425-4755

Great Lakes Engineering is a trend setting manufacturer of surface mount stencils, precision laser cut parts, and photo chemical etched parts. We work with a wide range of materials, including Stainless Steel, Copper, Titanium, Nitinol, Nickel, Kovar and many others.

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Great Lakes Engineering, Inc. $$$

El Monte, CA  |  626-443-7121

VACCO is the industry leader of Photo Chemical Etching of metal & polyimide components and devices. We specialize in Stainless steel, Titanium, and Copper, but work with a variety of different materials. We have over 60 years of experience in Chem Etching, and we offer Micro Laser Cutting & Welding, and Diffusion & Adhesive Bonding services along with an extensive range of value-added services. Whether your application is large or small, VACCO can assist you from prototype to production.

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VACCO Industries, Inc. $$$

Lancaster, PA  |  800-522-9709

Photochemical machining is the process we use on aluminum (and alloys), brass, copper, inconels, kovar, metal foils (less than .001” thick), metal sheets (up to .125” thick), mild steels, molybdenum, monels, nickel, phosphor bronze, stainless (300 & 400) and others. Trust your metal etching needs to us.

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Lancaster Metals Science Corporation $$$

Newark, NY  |  315-331-7680

Our metal engraving is the best in the industry! We work with a variety of metals to come out with the finished product that you have been searching for. Our metals that we use are typically flat sheets that are coiled or blanks that are cut to size. We are committed to providing excellent customer service every time you do business with us. Get in touch with our staff today or fill out the easy form on our website to get started!

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NEWCUT, Incorporated $$$
placeholder image Great Lakes Engineering, Inc. VACCO Industries, Inc. Lancaster Metals Science Corporation NEWCUT, Incorporated

Etched metals are usually quite thin, such as sheet metals or foils, although thicker metals such as coins and plaques are often etched as well. Parts made from chemical milling include stencils, plaques, printing plates, printed circuit boards, foil-stamping dies, and embossing dies for electronics, aerospace and automotive industries among others.

The acid etching process has six main steps. First, the metal sheet to be etched must be stripped of all oils and chemicals. Cleansers are typically an alkaline cleaner to strip organic materials followed by an acid cleaner to remove chemical residue; neither of these cleansers can be too strong, or the polished surface of the metal will be scratched.

Next, a masking is applied to the entire surface. Masking types are often tapes or paints, elastomers (rubber) or plastics. A pattern is cut into the masking in the same shape the metal is to be cut, then the cut masking is removed from the areas to be etched, and the chemical, or "reagent", is applied.

After the acid has achieved its desired etch, both the reagent and the remaining photoresist are stripped. The metal is polished, any irregularities in the cut are burnished, and the etching is finished. Various types of metal require different etchants, or reagents.

For example, steel typically takes hydrogen chloride or nitric acid; aluminum uses sodium hydroxide; stainless steel etching and copper use iron chloride or nitric acid, and so on.

When the reagent is applied, many factors are considered to determine how fast the etch or cut will be made, how much of a side-cut will be made, etc.; temperature, agitation, and often the concentration of hydrochloric acid all determine what type of cut will be made.

Acid etching and engraving has become increasingly popular as chemical technology has improved, since chemical milling is much faster and more economic than mechanical milling. Mechanical milling usually involves large and costly machinery, and each part must be milled individually.

Parts can be completed by chemical milling within hours of design. This is likely the reason why larger OEMs and industrial machinists are turning to chemical and photo milling.

Acid Etching Informational Video